Goose Creek State Park, Washington, NC

I love the mountains. But sometimes I feel like hiking but don’t want to do mountains. I am also on a quest to visit as many North Carolina State Parks as possible. So I am looking at where I haven’t been and find Goose Creek on the Pamlico Sound.

lowland hiking it’s very humid

By looking at the trails at Goose Creek I could take the Palmetto Boardwalk to the Ivey Gut trail. The Ivey Gut took me into the campgrounds. Here I took a side trip to Flatty Creek, caught the Goose Creek Trail back towards Mallard. Creek. After Mallard creek The Tar Kiln Trail would take me back to the Palmetto Boardwalk and I have a seven mile loop of the park!

This is a beautiful Park. I started the hike from the visitor center on the Palmetto Boardwalk. This boardwalk took me through a half a mile of swampland.

the Palmetto Swamp

The swamp was full of Palmettos. The ranger at the visitor center said that they used to have an alligator but he hadn’t seen it in quite some time so wasn’t sure it was still a resident of the park.

I turned right off the boardwalk on the Ivey Gut Trail.

Goose Creek from the Ivey Gut Trail.

Now I found this trail name to be very strange so I researched what could be it’s origin. So I found out that a gut is a channel where incoming tidal currents are strong. The currents erode the channel so that it is deeper then the surrounding waters on each side. I never determined exactly where Ivey Gut was but I assume it was out near the mouth of the creek somewhere.

The Ivey Gut took me to the campground. Goose Creek had a really nice campground for tent camping only. It was at the mouth of Goose Creek (near Ivey Gut I assume), and the Pamlico Sound.

Now I keep calling it the Pamlico Sound but locally it is the Pamlico/Tar River. I really don’t know the difference or at what point it loses the river designation and becomes a sound. It is part of the Albemarle/Pamlico Sound system the second largest estuary of the eastern United States trailing only the Chesapeake Bay in size. Of the Albemarle/Pamlico Sound system Pamlico is the largest lagoon on the east coast. Now it is a lagoon! I don’t really know what the difference is; lagoon, sound, it was a damn big body of water!

Depths in the sound are generally 5 to 6 feet but do hit 25 feet in places (maybe in the guts?)

The point of land where Goose Creek meets the sound. I don’t know how it keeps standing!

The Pamlico Sound from near the campground

The tree above is where the Goose Creek trail starts back through the backside of campground. I found the trail to Flatty Creek a .3 mile loop. The Flatty Creek Marshes are a National Natural Landmark.

The Marshes at Flatty Creek
more of Flatty Creek

I found the Flatty Creek area to be gorgeous. Pictures just don’t do it justice. After Flatty Creek I continued out of the campground on the Goose Creek trail.

I was soon in the Black Gum Swamp.

Black Gum Swamp

It is called the Black Gum Swamp because the Black Gum or Tupelo tree is the dominate species in the area.

Black Gum Swamp

I really enjoyed the swamp. There were lots of birds and flora.

After passing through the swamp I came to the beach area. Here is the public beach of the park, but to me, not a very good one. It was small and I expect that it could get very crowded in the summer.

Near the beach I found an amazingly old cemetery, so old that many of the headstones were made of wood. I just wondered how that has survived in this wet environment so long. The graves were from the 1880’s!

Cemetery with wooden headstones from 1880

No one really knows why the cemetery is here. The speculation is that a outbreak of disease, possibly yellow fever occurred on the opposite bank of the Pamlico. The families brought the victims here to be buried to protect the community from further outbreaks.

I headed away from the cemetery on the Live Oak Trail towards Mallard Creek. This trail skirted the shore below the beach.

The trail along the sound

The Mallard Creek trail was beautiful. I have never seen so much Spanish Moss in my life. It was thick and it was everywhere.

Mallard Creek Trail

This loop trail led to an overlook on Mallard Creek. Mallard Creek, although fascinating wasn’t nearly as picturesque as Flatty Creek. It was a single channel where Flatty creek had multiple channels between the marshes.

Mallard Creek

The last leg of this hike was on the Tar Kiln Trail. This area was known for it’s naval stores; (aka tar to seal wooden boats) throughout the colonial period. In this section the long leaf pines were cut down and burnt in special earthen kilns to extract and collect the tar for shipbuilders.

Tar Kiln

It takes more imagination then I can muster but at this point there was a storyboard designating this as an abandoned tar kiln.

I got a lot of history out of my hike through Goose Creek. I love that on a hike to get a feel of what the area was like in the past.

One last swamp on the Tar Kiln Trail

The area seems really swampy and you wonder how people lived and worked there, but they did. The Ranger told me that the area had changed a lot over the past couple of decades due to multiple hurricanes pushing in the waters of the Pamlico Sound.

I headed towards the Palmetto Boardwalk and the end of this hike.

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